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‘If it’s f—ed up in Afghanistan, it’s on us’: US veterans say Biden botched the withdrawal and should take responsibility for the ‘ongoing humanitarian crisis’

US marine with Afghan national army members
Former US Marine Michael Loyd with members of the Afghan national army in Afghanistan in 2012.

  • Biden has defended his handling of the situation in Afghanistan despite widespread criticism.
  • An ex-US marine said Biden is responsible for the fallout and the US should take accountability.
  • “If it’s f—ed up in Afghanistan, it’s on us,” he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Despite repeated calls and emails to US officials, Ed McCormick said he’s had no success getting his two Afghan interpreters, who fear retribution from the Taliban, out of Kabul.

“It’s already scary enough where daily I’m messaging both of these individuals and sometimes they take a little long to respond and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, are they still there? Are they still alive?'” McCormick, a US army veteran deployed in Afghanistan in 2008 for a year and again in 2011 for six months, told Insider. “Eventually they respond, but there’s a good chance that at some point they’re not going to, and you can only assume the worst has happened.”

Given President Joe Biden’s looming August 31 deadline to complete the US’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan – and the deadly attacks and escalating chaos at Kabul airport – McCormick is worried that his translators, who are awaiting their Special Immigrant Visa approval, won’t be evacuated in time. He said he would feel “horrible and then partly responsible” if they end up stuck in the country.

“I would feel like I failed,” McCormick, 47, added.

Biden has rejected pleas to maintain US troop presence in Afghanistan beyond the next five days to help transport Americans and Afghan refugees. At least 250,000 Afghans who worked with the US military remain in Afghanistan, according to estimates by The New York Times. And as many as 1,000 Americans are still waiting to be evacuated, per the State Department.

The Biden administration insisted that it can evacuate every American who wants to get out and expressed national security concerns over staying past August 31. The Taliban has threatened “consequences” if the US extends the deadline.

joe biden
U.S. President Joe Biden pauses while giving remarks on the worsening crisis in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House August 16, 2021.

McCormick disagreed with the White House’s assessment, adding that the US has leverage in this situation. “What can the Taliban really do?” he asked. The militant group swiftly captured Afghanistan and collapsed the US-backed Afghan government on August 15. But now “they’re trying to set up their government and they can’t get into an armed conflict with American forces,” he said.

“They need money from the World Bank. They need money from the UN. They need to keep the government going,” McCormick continued. “They’re not going to get that if they’re attacking civilians and US troops in front of the world press.”

‘If it’s f—ed up in Afghanistan, it’s on us’

Biden has dismissed the widespread criticism he’s received over the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan amid the US’s military withdrawal. He’s blamed his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, for emboldening the Taliban through his February 2020 deal to pull out US troops within 14 months. Biden has also pointed fingers at the Afghan government and military, claiming they lacked the “will” to fight the Taliban.

However, Michael Boyd, a former US marine who served in Afghanistan in 2012, said Biden needs to accept accountability of the fallout.

“The commander-in-chief is ultimately always responsible for the tactical situation on the ground,” Boyd told Insider. “The president is always responsible.”

“We’ve been there for 20 years,” Boyd continued, “So if it’s f—ed up in Afghanistan, it’s on us.”

US marine in Afghanistan
Former US Marine Michael Boyd in Afghanistan in 2012.

The 37-year-old veteran further pushed back on Biden, who’s defended his handling of the pullout and repeatedly said that no matter how the US left Afghanistan, chaos was inevitable.

“That’s BS, man,” Boyd told Insider. “This did not have to be a collapse.”

“What folks don’t understand is how the US military can really almost do anything,” he added. “Once you saw it falling, you could have stopped it.”

The US faces an ‘ongoing humanitarian crisis’

The US, working with the Taliban, has evacuated approximately 97,500 people out of Kabul since August 14, according to the White House. Afghan evacuees are being transported to military bases across the Middle East, Central Asia, and Europe, before being taken to various resettlement destinations, which includes the US for some.

But the US’s obligation to Afghanistan should go beyond a rescue mission, Boyd said.

“It’s going to be an ongoing humanitarian crisis,” he said. “We were there for 20 years. Why would we think that you just get to walk away?”

“As an American, we have a responsibility to the people until the end,” Boyd added.

The Taliban’s takeover has brought uncertainty to Afghanistan, which has made immense gains since 2001 when the militant group fell. Afghan girls and women have been able to work and go to school – rights that were restricted under the Taliban’s last rule. The Taliban has tried to present a moderate stance since reappearing on the global stage, claiming they will guarantee the safety of Afghans and build better lives for them. But recent reports out of Kabul describing Taliban-led attacks against Afghans suggest otherwise.

“[Afghans] built themselves up,” McCormick said. “Is the Taliban going to allow girls to go back to school? That remains to be seen. Are they going to be able to go back to work? That remains to be seen.”

“That’s what’s frustrating to me,” he added. “That’s what’s gone.”

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